How to Find Cheap Land in Pennsylvania?

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How to Find Cheap Land in Pennsylvania?

Bart Waldon

Let's talk about buying land in Pennsylvania without breaking the bank. It's not easy, but it's not impossible either. We've spent years researching this topic and talking to folks who've done it, and we here to share what we've learned.

First, some real talk about the current situation. Pennsylvania's farmland is shrinking - about 6% less now than in the 1980s, according to Penn State. Meanwhile, more people are moving into prime farming areas. This means competition for land is fierce, and prices are going up. The state's Department of Agriculture says farmland costs have jumped 15% in just ten years. Ouch.

But don't throw in the towel just yet. There are still deals to be found if you know where to look and how to look. So let's dive in.

Understanding Pennsylvania's Land Market

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of finding cheap land, you need to understand what drives land prices here. It's not rocket science, but there are a few key factors:

  1. Location: No surprises here. Land near Philly or Pittsburgh? Expensive. Middle of nowhere? Cheaper.
  2. Terrain: Flat, easy-to-build-on land costs more than hilly or rocky areas.
  3. Zoning: Residential or commercial zoning usually means higher prices than agricultural or undeveloped land.
  4. Infrastructure: Good roads and nearby utilities drive up the price.
  5. Resources: Land with timber or mineral rights might cost more upfront but could pay off later.

Keep these in mind as we explore ways to find those hidden bargains.

Strategies for Finding the Good Stuff

Look Where Others Don't

Everyone wants land near the big cities or in popular vacation spots. But what about the less flashy areas? Places like:

  • Northern Tier counties (Potter, Tioga, Bradford)
  • Southwestern PA (Greene and Fayette counties)
  • Parts of Central PA (Clearfield, Jefferson, Elk counties)

These spots might not make the tourism brochures, but they could be your ticket to affordable land.

Use the Internet (Smartly)

The internet is your friend in this search, but you've got to use it right:

  • Check out websites like LandWatch and LandAndFarm. They specialize in rural properties.
  • Many PA counties have GIS (Geographic Information System) websites. These are goldmines of property info.
  • Join Facebook groups about PA land sales. You'd be surprised what you might find.

Pro tip: Don't trust any single source. Cross-check everything.

Get in on Auctions and Tax Sales

If you've got nerves of steel and have done your homework, auctions can be great. Here's what you need to know:

  • Upset sales: Counties sell land with unpaid taxes. You might snag a deal, but do your research first.
  • Judicial sales: If a property doesn't sell at the upset sale, it ends up here.
  • Sheriff's sales: These deal with foreclosed properties.

Word of caution: These can be great deals, but they're not for the faint of heart. Know what you're getting into.

Network Like Your Land Depends on It (Because It Does)

Sometimes, finding cheap land is all about who you know:

  • Talk to real estate agents who specialize in land.
  • Get to know land surveyors. They often hear about properties before anyone else.
  • Chat up county assessors. They know land values like the back of their hand.
  • Don't overlook local farmers. They often know who's thinking of selling.

In small towns, word of mouth is king. Don't be shy about striking up conversations at the local diner.

Keep an Eye Out for Distressed Properties

This one's a bit tricky. You're not looking to profit from someone else's misfortune, but the reality is that financial difficulties can lead to land bargains:

  • Foreclosures: Banks often want to offload these quickly.
  • Estate sales: Families inheriting land they don't want might sell cheap to settle affairs.
  • Tax-delinquent properties: These often end up in those auctions we talked about earlier.

Just make sure everything's legally sound and approach with sensitivity.

Doing Your Homework

Found a cheap piece of land? Great! But pump the brakes before you buy. You need to:

  1. Check the title: Make sure there are no liens or ownership disputes.
  2. Understand zoning laws: Your plans need to match what's legally allowed.
  3. Look for environmental issues: Wetlands or poor soil could cause headaches.
  4. Consider access and utilities: Can you legally get to the property? How much will it cost to set up electricity and water?
  5. Understand the tax situation: Look into current rates and any potential breaks or hidden costs.

Paying for Your Piece of Pennsylvania

Even cheap land costs money. Here are your options:

  1. Cash: If you can swing it, this often leads to the best deals.
  2. Owner financing: Some sellers might be willing to act as the bank.
  3. Land loans: Harder to get than home loans, but not impossible.
  4. Home equity: If you own a home, you might be able to use your equity.
  5. USDA loans: For rural properties, this could be an option.

The Land Boss Alternative

Look, finding cheap land in PA is tough. It takes time, effort, and a whole lot of patience. That's why some folks turn to companies like Land Boss. Full disclosure: I work with them, so I know their process inside and out.

Here's the deal: Land Boss buys land at a discount, paying cash. For sellers, it's a quick way out. For buyers, it's access to properties that might not be on the open market. With five years in the business and over 100 deals done, they know the PA land market.

Is it the only way? Nope. But it's an option worth considering if you want to save time and headaches.

Final Thoughts

Finding affordable land in Pennsylvania isn't a walk in the park, but it's doable. Whether you're scouring online listings, chatting up locals at the feed store, or working with a company like Land Boss, the key is to stay informed and act fast when you find the right deal.

Remember, do your homework, trust your gut, and don't be afraid to ask for help. With some patience and persistence, you might just find yourself standing on your very own piece of Pennsylvania, wondering why you didn't do this sooner.

Good luck out there, and happy land hunting!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you really find cheap land in PA these days?

Look, I'm not going to lie – it's not as easy as it used to be. Prices have definitely gone up, especially around the cities. But cheap land in Pennsylvania? It's still out there if you know where to look.

I've seen folks have luck in the less popular counties up north, like Potter or Bradford. And don't overlook southwestern PA either. The key is to be patient and do your homework. Sometimes the best deals are on land that needs a bit of work. It's not always pretty, but if you're willing to put in some elbow grease, you can find some real bargains.

What's the deal with tax sales? Good way to get land?

Tax sales can be a goldmine, but they're not for everyone. I've seen people get amazing deals, but I've also seen folks get in over their heads.

Here's the thing – you need to know exactly what you're getting into. These sales can be complicated, and what looks like a steal might come with a whole host of problems. My advice? If you're interested, go to a few sales just to watch before you even think about bidding. And for heaven's sake, do your research on any property you're considering. The last thing you want is to win a bid on land you can't even access.

Do I really need a real estate agent to find cheap land?

You don't absolutely need one, but a good agent can be a huge help. Especially if you can find one who specializes in land sales. They often know about properties before they hit the market.

That said, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Some of the best deals I've heard about came from people just talking to locals or poking around online. Use an agent if you want, but keep your eyes and ears open too.

I found a super cheap piece of land. What should I watch out for?

First off, congrats! But let's pump the brakes for a second. In my experience, if a deal looks too good to be true, it often is.

Common issues I've seen with dirt-cheap land include no legal access (imagine buying land you can't even get to), tough zoning restrictions, or environmental problems like wetlands. Sometimes it's in a flood zone or has liens against it.

Don't let this scare you off completely. Just make sure you do your homework. Get a title search, talk to the local zoning office, and maybe even get a surveyor to walk the land with you. Better to spend a bit of money checking things out than to buy a property that turns into a money pit.

How long does it usually take to find and buy cheap land?

Honestly? How long is a piece of string? It really depends on what you're looking for and how picky you are.

I know people who found the perfect piece of land in a week, and others who searched for years. On average, though, most folks I talk to spend about 3-6 months actively looking before they find something they like at a price they can stomach.

The best advice I can give is to be persistent but patient. Set up alerts on those land websites, talk to everyone you can, and keep your eyes peeled. Sometimes the perfect opportunity shows up when you least expect it.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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